Written for the LOTR Community Hearts and Flowers challenge. Beta by RiverOtter.
Pearl was taken aback by the tone of the call, and turned around quickly, expecting to find herself face to face with her father. Instead, the stony visage that met her surprised gaze was that of her little brother, at the moment as stern as ever had been Paladin Took or Grandda Adalgrim. He raked her with cold, disapproving eyes, then turned away from her as if she were beneath his dignity to look upon further and went into the farmhouse, his travel cloak fluttering as if it, too, felt cold fury towards her.
“You’d think he was the Thain himself,” said Pimpernel admiringly, watching after their brother as the door slammed behind him. But as her eyes met Pearl’s her expression also became decidedly cool.
“So, you’re angry with me, too?” Pearl demanded.
Pimpernel sniffed, “What do you think? What you’ve done to Frodo was unconscionable.”
“And just what do I owe to Frodo Baggins?”
“He loves you, Pearl Took. To just throw him over like that, all of a sudden, no warning at all----”
Pearl interrupted, “Why does everyone act as if I’d done something terrible? I just realized I simply don’t love him!”
“All of a sudden—in the morning you’re discussing your wedding trousseau, and in the afternoon you can’t even give him the time of day? What happened yesterday when you went into Hobbiton?”
“And what makes you think something happened in Hobbiton?” Pearl demanded, her own voice icy now.
“What? What makes us think something happened?” Pimmie was looking at her with wide, amazed eyes. “Pearl, you were as ready as any of us to accept Frodo’s promise gifts yesterday before you went into the village, and you know it as well as I do. But when you came back your attitude was all different, and you wouldn’t speak to Frodo at all, but kept avoiding him, acting as if it embarrassed you to be anywhere near him.”
Pearl felt exasperated as she tried to find an answer her sister would understand. “What was I supposed to do? Am I to continue acting as if I were besotted with him when I’m not? You know as well as I do that Frodo would never move to the Great Smial, which is where I really want to live. I mean, he has Bag End, and it’s the most gracious smial in the whole Shire—why would he ever want to move away from it? And there’s no question that when Bilbo is gone it will be Frodo’s!
“Frodo may love to dance, but he doesn’t like to go to parties as much as I do. He actually likes working with his copying, and would want to take commissions when I’d want to go visiting with my friends or travel to see our parents, whether here or in Tuckborough. He’d expect me to do a good portion of the cooking….”
“And why not?” Pimpernel asked. “You’re a decent cook, after all.”
“But I don’t like cooking every day. That’s why I want to live at the Great Smial, so I could let those who make a living by cooking do what they do best and I could spend more time visiting with my friends and talking, or working at my sewing. I don’t mind sewing, but it seems that cooking is something that takes up far too much of a wife’s time. And I can’t see Frodo agreeing to employ a servant just to do the cooking I don’t want to do.
“And what about Snappy? You know how Frodo feels about dogs—he doesn’t like them at all, and never has. I think he’s afraid of them, actually. Already every time he comes here we have to put Snappy and Dizzy out back, and Snappy is just a puppy still. I’d refuse to make Snappy stay outside if I were to marry him. And it certainly wouldn’t be right to bring the focus of Frodo’s fear right in to the hole where he has to face it all the time.
“Plus he likes to read so much, and to work in the gardens. What if I’m eager to tell him all about what’s happening in the village and he doesn’t want to listen? You know how he can be—he’s sitting there, apparently listening intently, but in reality he’s trying to find some Elvish word to describe a flower he’s been admiring much of the morning, or he’ll answer with a question about whether or not I’ve read anything about the Men of the West. What do I care about the Men of the West?”
She felt the sigh building, and let it out. “I’d resent him deeply in no time at all, and he’d most likely feel the same toward me, and you know it.”
Pimmie searched her face for a few moments, and finally said, “You mean that?” At Pearl’s nod, she continued, “Then why didn’t you say all that to him?”
Pearl found herself throwing out her hands. “How can I, Pim? How can I tell him, I was more interested in being in love with you than I was in you yourself? How can I tell him that I find his interests boring, and that I just don’t want to live in Bag End or Hobbiton? How can I tell him I don’t want to live within five miles of Lobelia Sackville-Baggins and her poisonous tongue? You should have heard what she was saying there in Hobbiton yesterday, Pimmie! It was awful! And then I realized that I didn’t want her saying things like that about me, too! And then there’s the question of children….” But this came far, far too close to the real problem, the one she didn’t want to talk about to anyone, or not as yet.
“So you’d let the nonsense Lobelia might say get between you and the one you love?” Pimpernel asked.
Again Pearl nodded. “And if I feel that way, just how much do I truly love him, Pimmie? That was when I realized I didn’t really love Frodo at all, just the idea of being in love with him.” After a moment she added, “It’s not really fair to him to keep leading him on as I was doing.”
“Are you going to tell Mummy and Da?”
Pearl shrugged. “I think Da knows how I really feel—or he will, at least; but Mum won’t ever understand, I don’t think.”
The two lasses were quiet for a time, and at last Pimpernel hazarded, “Does this mean you’ll let Isumbard press his suit now?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.” And then, “Yes, I probably will.”
“Frodo’s truly heartbroken, you know.”
“I suppose he is.”
“He had a beautiful pendant and set of ear drops for you as a promise gift.”
She felt some bitterness she didn’t really understand in herself. “I am certain that whatever Frodo would offer as a promise gift would be especially beautiful and in the utmost of taste, Pim. But he can offer them to Narcissa as easily as to me. At least she truly loves him, and it’s not just fascination the way it was with me.”
But Pimpernel was shaking her head. “No, he’d never give anything to her that was first intended for you. And it will be a long time before he’ll even look at her, much less accept that he was her first love as much as he was yours. If he ever does heal enough to look at another lass, he’d want a special promise gift to offer her that reflects her and his love for her, not something left over from his first serious love.”
Pervinca came out of the house, gave a swift glance at Pearl and then looked decidedly away from her, and focused her attention on Pimpernel. “Mum wants us lasses to help put away the clothing while she starts dinner.” But she didn’t turn about to go back in herself, instead asking Pimmie, “Do you think that Frodo will ever get over being thrown over like that?”
Pim gave her older sister a sidelong glance before answering Vinca, “In time I think he will.”
“His heart hurts now, though—it hurts sore, it does. He didn’t deserve that—he’s never done anything to deserve being treated like he’s nothing.” And with that she finally went back inside, and although she didn’t slam the door as hard as had Pippin, it still was a rebuke to Pearl for her behavior.
The two older lasses stayed outdoors still a few moments longer. Pearl plucked a spray of lavender and was turning it in her fingers when she suggested, “The way is open for you now, Pimmie. I know you’ve been fascinated by Frodo as much as I ever was.”
Pimpernel gave a brittle laugh. “Oh, yes, me and half of all the lasses between my age and his in the Shire, and probably a few older than he is as well. And I know that what you found is true for you is truer for me. Oh, I wouldn’t mind living in Bag End and being Mistress of the Hill; but I have no more interest in all the things that Frodo likes than you do. Going out walking about the Shire looking for Elves? Hosting Dwarves? Oh, no—not for me!” She shook her head as she turned her eyes back in the direction of Hobbiton. “I’d make him keep at least a couple of ponies, for I have no interest at all in walking all the way from Brandy Hall to Tuckborough the way he does.”
Pearl felt relieved, and set her hand on Pimmie’s shoulder, and they looked Hobbiton-way together for some time in quiet, until Pimpernel questioned softly, “And do you think that that Lobelia is right, and that Frodo has a weak heart? Is that why his mother couldn’t have more than one child live—that they all tended to have bad hearts?”
Pearl’s mouth was dry. “She told you, too?”
Pimmie turned to search her sister’s eyes again. “So, that was the real reason? I remember the one bairn Mummy lost—I wouldn’t want to go through that, either.”
And for the first time Pearl felt tears slip from her eyes, and they put arms about each other. Pearl rested her head on her younger sister’s shoulder as together they let go of the thought of marrying Frodo Baggins.